Stacy Walden chuckled while listening to her wrestling son, Christian, answer questions Thursday afternoon from a roving reporter.
Christian Walden, a two-time state champion and two-time National High School Coaches Association All-American, was asked about his favorite music genre and what he listened to in preparation for dominating an opponent, something he does on a regular basis.
“I like listening to rap before a meet,” he said.
His favorite is Lil Uzi Vert, formerly known as Symere Woods, whose music is more trap than rap, more hip hop than bee bop. Shortly before performing his favorite move, “The Cradle,” on an unsuspecting opponent, Walden often has the lyrics of Lil Uzi’s “You Was Right” running through his head.
Apparently the unorthodox tunes have a championship caliber to them, since Walden continues to garner title after title and is the current favorite to win the LHSAA’s state crown for a third consecutive season in the 160-pound class when the meet rolls into the CenturyLink Center next month.
Walden, who began wrestling 12 years ago, has verbally committed to wrestle for the Army at West Point next fall. He’ll first enter the service academy’s prep school, which will serve as a redshirt year of sorts, before moving onto main campus the following fall. His nomination letter for acceptance for West Point was written by Congressman John Fleming.
His accomplishments have caught the attention of the Vikings’ first-year wrestling coach Chris Knotts.
“Christian has an excellent work ethic and a one-track mindset when it comes to competing,” Knotts said. “He is all business and gets locked in on his goal, which is something a person in the sport of wrestling needs.
“He is the leader of our team and sets the tone for the rest of our wrestlers.”
Growing up in Bossier City through Stockwell Elementary, Green Acres and now Airline, Walden has slowly developed into a college-level wrestler.
“I wasn’t very good when I started out but I hung with it and kept getting better,” he said.
Traveling across the country for meets against some of the country’s best allowed him to develop quicker than most in his sport.
“Going to the bigger out-of-state meets really helped,” Walden said. “I noticed after I came back the first year that I was killing everybody.”
And that has continued through most of his high school career. As a sophomore, he was seeded third heading into the state tournament with a 42-2 overall record but defeated Mason Williams of Brother Martin in an 11-6 decision for the 145-pound state title. Last year he moved up to 160 pounds and topped Jacob Fereday of Catholic-Baton Rouge in a 9-5 decision.
“Probably my favorite wrestling memory so far was winning the state title the first time,” he said. “It was tied going into the third period, but I started taking him down and ended up beating him pretty badly.”
Finishing in the top 8 from among 80 wrestlers at the NHSCA event at Virginia Beach, Virginia, earned him All-American status, while advancing his talents at the Louisiana state level.
“There were kids from all over the country there, so having wrestled at other big meets helped me be able to figure people out,” Walden said. “All people wrestle differently.”
His biggest challenge as a wrestler came near the end of his sophomore campaign when he tore the labrum in his shoulder. He fought through it to win a state crown, had surgery during the summer, then came back to repeat as state champ last February.
Walden credits much of his success to having wrestling partners, like Tony Lococo push him in the past. But his abilities, hence his success, have left him short on area wrestlers capable of pushing him to another level.
“My goal is to dominate everyone,” he said. “I do what I can to prepare for meets and try to challenge myself.”
After winning his first state title in New Orleans, Walden was happy to capture his second in his hometown, which will host the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Wrestling State Tournament again Feb. 10-11 thanks to the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission.
“When it’s here, more of our family and friends are able to see us wrestle,” he said. “A lot of big tournaments are down south, which sometimes seems unfair.” He’ll compete in the Louisiana Classic at Baton Rouge Community College this weekend. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society at Airline, Walden was a former coin collector.
“They’re put away in a safe. That was a while ago,” he chuckled.
Now, he just listens to Lil Uzi and pins opponents.